The economy is twice as wealthy and productive than it was in 1980 however, despite three decades of economic growth, middle-class incomes have risen only slightly. This is a consequence of thirty-five years of free-market evangelism that has convinced middle-class voters, who despite being on the short-end of the economic stick, to support policies that favor corporations and Wall Street. Labor unions have been the countervailing power to corporate abuses for decades. Union contracts were templates for entire industries. They raised living standards for millions of Americans and were at the forefront of wages, pensions, healthcare, education, civil rights, housing and a host of other social causes important to the entire community. Their efforts had a profound impact on the middleclass, even to those who did not belong to a union themselves. Today however, Americans are drowning in debt; job security and workplace protections are a thing of the past. Traditional pensions have almost completely disappeared, replaced by chronically underfunded 401(k) plans in which workers bear all the risk of the stock market. This is the predictable result of trickle-down economics. A strategy designed to redistribute the nation’s wealth from the bottom up. By eliminating their primary opposition, the corporatocracy and Wall Street sought to dismantle labor unions and sow the seeds of discontent among wage earners. The consequence is the average after-tax income of the one-percent has increased from $337,000 in 1980 to $1.2 million today. This is an increase of almost 260% in 35 years. Compared to average middle class incomes, which increased only about 15% during the same time frame.
However, none of this happened by chance. Too many middleclass voters simply sat idly by and abdicated their responsibility; hiding behind the alibi “I’m just not into politics.” Corporations and the financial industry seized this opportunity to get what they wanted; public policies focused almost exclusively on the demands of business and finance. Based on the empty promises of shared economic growth and jobs they sold an intellectually lazy electorate on multi-trillion-dollar corporate tax breaks, financial deregulations and corporate welfare subsidies. A slight-of-hand that turned the economy into a playground for corporations, the oligarchs and wall street gamblers. Therefore, if you’re “just not into politics” remember your employer, your financial institution and your insurance company are and every day they use their political power to keep your wages low, eliminate your protections and deny you coverage. Maybe it’s time you get into politics.